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Minister Sherlock launches research report in UCC

Agriculture, Hunger, News/feature, Africa, Malawi, 2015
Child taking emergency nutrition

Minister Sherlock welcomed UCC research on the production of emergency nutrition food in Malawi.

Minister Sherlock has launched a research report on Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food and rural livelihoods in Central Malawi, at a special event in University College Cork today.

The event was attended by representatives from the NGO community, the Irish food business sector, Irish academia and students.  At the event, Minister Sherlock welcomed the important findings contained in the research report, and encouraged further efforts to link research, innovation and impact. The research was the fruit of a collaboration between UCC, Valid Nutrition, Lilongwe University for Agriculture and Natural Resources and an agribusiness company ExAgris.

It examined the impact of a local peanut-processing factory in Malawi, which produces a peanut-based Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food used in the treatment of malnourished children. The factory produced 3 million sachets of Ready-to-Use Food in 2014, enough to treat 250,000 malnourished children.  Specifically, the research looked at the impact the factory had on the production of groundnuts by local farmers, the prices they received and efforts to maintain quality standards.

Factory Photo 2 July 2010

The establishment of the factory follows earlier work by Valid Nutrition, Concern Worldwide and Irish Aid, which revolutionised the way severe malnutrition is identified and treated.  Using a pre-packaged peanut-based paste, children could be identified by community health workers and treated in their homes and local health centres.  Previously children were hospitalised, obliging parents to stay in treatment centres for up to six weeks. This new approach, known as Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM), has since been adopted by the World Health Organisation as global best practice and rolled out in 70 countries.

The research considered how the factory affected production by local farmers, the prices they received and the quality of paste produced.

Despite the success of this approach, only 10% of acute malnutrition are currently treated. One reason for this is the high costs associated with production of the therapeutic paste, particularly as it was previously only produced under patent in Europe. Although local production would lower costs, increase supply and increase employment and income in the local area, there are important health and safety concerns to be considered.  That is where the Irish organisation, Valid Nutrition, come in.

Valid Nutrition have helped to establish local production of the Ready-to-Use Food, ensuring the highest medical, safety and quality assurance standards are in place. The factory in Malawi is one such example, and has sourced the groundnuts needed from local farmers. The research report examined these operations, and whether it provided a sustainable model for the local production of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, and an important new market for local small farmers. A summary of the findings is available, at the bottom of this page. 

Supporting poor households and communities to access good nutrition is a key priority for Irish Aid.   This collaboration is part of a large body of work on CMAM with partners including governments, UNICEF and civil society. 


Valid Nutrition - The Production of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food in Malawi

In the early years of this century, Valid International and Concern Worldwide, co-funded by Irish Aid, carried out a joint operational research into the diagnosis and treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in young children. Download PDF (326KB)